Employers have an obligation to do what is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety of their staff. This is true whether you’re running a service-based business, a warehouse or you are a manufacturer. Yet there are other benefits to improving workplace safety: improved morale, greater productivity, and potentially lower insurance premiums. It will likely reduce lost workdays to injury and disruptions in the workflow as well. In this article, we’re going to give you 8 ways you can improve workplace safety.
Provide Staff Training
Don’t assume that safety is common sense, much less think that workers will magically know the safest way to do their job. One of the most important ways you can improve workplace safety is through safety training.
Everyone needs thorough training on every safety aspect related to the job. Forklift drivers need to know how to safely handle the equipment. Everyone who may work with chemicals needs to be trained in how to safely handle them and where to access material safety data sheets. The necessary training should be part of one’s onboarding process, and it needs to occur when people take on new tasks at work. Consider refresher training periodically so that people are reminded how to do their job as safely as possible. Retraining may be necessary when safety equipment or work procedures change.
Don’t assume that employees know where fire exits and gathering points are. Teach everyone where these are, and then hold drills so that they can follow the evacuation plan if a real fire breaks out. Create a list of other emergency situations the company may need to deal with, and train employees how to handle those, as well.
Training should not be limited to front line employees. Managers, too, need to be trained. Consider sending managers to safety training supervisor training or STS training. If you’re looking for short courses that won’t disrupt your workflow, you can discover STS courses here. Continuing education for managers with regard to safety can keep them up to date on changing regulations, the latest recommended safety procedures, and appropriate HR procedures for ensuring a safe environment.
Give Employees the Resources They Need
A good way to ensure workplace safety is to give employees the resources they need. If your company provides steel toed boots, helmets, safety glasses and other safety devices, then there is no excuse for employees not to have them. Making safety gear immediately accessible helps ensure safety compliance.
You should also provide everything your team needs to maintain their equipment. You can’t lecture people on safety and then fail to fix problems when equipment is no longer working as intended, creating an unsafe condition. Regular maintenance has the side benefit of reducing the odds of unplanned breakdowns and the associated costs of lost production.
Consider where you may need to put up warning signs to warn people of potential hazards. If someone thinks that additional warning signs are necessary, put them in. These could range from “helmet area” warnings to reminders that someone should wash their hands while in the bathroom.
Create a Safety Plan
A safety plan means identifying hazards and determining a plan on how to handle them when they arise. Once you determine the proper procedure for dealing with issues ranging from injuries to chemical spills, you’ll need to train staff in how to follow the safety plan. This is aside from intentionally disseminating information like where the first aid kits are located and ensuring that there are people on hand trained to render first aid correctly. You should consider providing first aid training for employees so that they are better able to deal with emergencies.
Messy workspaces invite injuries. Cluttered floors bring the potential for trips and falls. Unaddressed spills increase the risk someone will slip and fall. Misplaced tools could injure someone who trips on it. The solution is to make a clean environment a priority. Also provide the equipment and time to do so. If people are under pressure to just get work done and maximize productivity, they aren’t going to take the time to clean up spills, organize a workbench, or pick up trash.
Inspect Your Workplace
While you can have a plan on how to deal with hazards, it is best to be proactive. If you spot and eliminate potential risks, everyone is safer for it. Ensure that equipment is operating properly. Verify that employees are following safe work procedures. You may need to send people back to training if they don’t seem to know the appropriate work methods. Make certain that storage areas are safe, that boxes aren’t stacked in a haphazard manner or equipment like forklifts aren’t used safely. Verify that employees know how to safely pick up heavy loads without injuring themselves.
In addition to inspections, you should encourage open communication of problems reported by employees. Let them have a clear channel for reporting unsafe conditions and sharing ideas for improving safety in the workplace.
All incidents should be investigated, including minor injuries and “near-misses”. Investigations allow you to determine why the incident happened. Then you can take steps to prevent a future incident, whether it is more training, firing an unsafe employee, altering work procedures, or fixing a problem.
Understand the Link Between Human Resources and Safety
You can tell employees that safety starts with them and lecture them all you like. However, there is a link between Human Resources and safety. When you’re hiring new people, determine that they’re competent. Competent workers are less prone to accidents, whether due to ignorance or short-cuts as they try to meet goals they cannot otherwise achieve. If someone is intentionally disregarding safety rules or repeatedly fails to adhere to them, they should be terminated.
Your company should also look at what they reward. If you promote a “whatever it takes attitude” and reward those who take risky shortcuts to increase production, you’re incentivizing unsafe behavior. Conversely, you could reward managers and lower level employees for good safety records. However, your company culture needs to foster open and honest communication and mandate recording of all accidents so that people aren’t pressured into covering up accidents to receive a safety award.
Management should insist on safety in the workplace and put safety first, even when there is a drive to increase productivity or meet deadlines. Workers will support safety if management practices what it preaches.
Human Resources should maintain records related to injuries, first aid, inspections, investigations, and training unless you have a separate safety department doing this. Analyzing these records allows you to identify trends in unsafe conditions or work procedures, including when it may be due to a manager’s demands or employee who doesn’t care.
Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement – of Safety
Safety in the workplace should be something you always strive to improve. Ask your employees for ways to improve workplace safety. They may be able to recommend safer work procedures or point out safety guards they’d like installed on the equipment. They could give recommendations on training needs that they recognize they need. Know that there is always room for improvement and encourage suggestions toward that goal.
While there are regulatory requirements for maintaining a safe environment, going above and beyond the mandatory minimum can yield significant rewards. Invest the time and effort to improve workplace safety at your company.